Prison Readings: A Critical Introduction to Prisons and Imprisonment
Edited by Yvonne Jewkes and Helen Johnston
Portland, OR: Willan Publishing, 2006
In Prison Readings: A Critical Introduction to Prisons and Imprisonment, Yvonne Jewkes and Helen Johnston add to the existing body of knowledge on the history and development of corrections by assembling articles which not only exemplify the historical context of imprisonment but also juxtaposes this context with current correctional practice. The book opens with a discussion of the cyclical nature of corrections and introduces the debate over whether recent penal policies represent a return to an earlier more brutal correctional period; yet the primary aim of the book is to provide broad historical and contemporary coverage of core correctional issues within a critical framework. The editors indicate that upon completion of this text readers will have gained familiarity with correctional history. Moreover, the reader will walk away with a clearer understanding of the transformations that have taken place in penology and how those transformations are manifested within current correctional practice.
The book covers five broad areas within corrections: a) the emergence of the modern prison; b) theoretical approaches and emerging trends; c) prison populations; d) the prison community; and e) current controversies. Containing more than thirty essays on correctional issues, Prison Readings is significant in that the editors should be commended for the depth displayed in the eclectic selection of material for the book. The text contains a core group of historical readings which provide first-rate synopses of correctional history as demonstrated by the inclusion of the writings of Foucault, Sykes, Goffman, and Jacobs. Interspersed throughout many of the readings selected are references to the social and political context impacting correctional policy from the eighteenth century through the twenty-first century. At the same time, where possible, the authors have deliberately positioned text to stir debate about the use and purpose of punishment by placing opposing perspectives side-by-side.
While the editors have done an excellent job selecting material for this text to provide broad coverage of correctional topics, the book never approaches the level of critique implied by its title. Instead the book is simply a very good summary of the history, context of correctional movements, and current issues facing corrections. The articles selected are not necessarily representative of the critical literature available on penology nor do the editors provide critical analysis of the material included in each section. Thus, each new section of the text is introduced with a simple summary of the articles rather than a critical précis of the material to be covered. With that in mind, it was then expected that at the end of the book the editors would bring forth their critique of prisons and imprisonment. Instead, the book ends with a discussion of the role of the media which is not made to fit with any other historical, social, or political contexts discussed in prior sections of the text.
Despite the limited critical analysis, Prison Readings: A Critical Introduction to Prisons and Imprisonment is worth the price as an introductory reader for the college classroom and for those with little knowledge of correctional contexts. The book does provide broad coverage of basic correctional issues and would make a nice supplement for college courses.
MARTHA L. HENDERSON
Southern Illinois University Carbondale